ALLEN, Texas – All too often I start a game day article saying how critical a game is for the Allen Americans. It’s probably an overused statement given Allen will hit the 50 percent mark of the season in the game tonight and there is a lot of hockey still to be played before playoff time.
The game tonight at the Allen Event Center is critical because the conventional wisdom has been once the Americans start playing at home, the wins will come, and they will climb the standings. Makes perfect sense since Allen has played more road games and fewer home games than any team in the ECHL.
Allen got off to a bad start to a homestand that will see it play 19 of 22 games at the AEC. If the Americans expect to gain ground on the Western Conference leaders, losing the first game of a series to a team that has struggled on the road is not a good start.
Do the Roster Shuffle…
The hits keep coming to the roster. In the month of March alone, and there are still five days remaining, 11 players have been subtracted from the roster and six have been added. Add injuries to goalies Jake Paterson and Justin Kapelmaster, captain Dyson Stevenson, leading goal scorer Jesse Mychan and Colby McAuley, and you can see what the team has been dealing with. Coach Steve Martinson always says you can’t use injuries and call-ups as an excuse as every team has to deal with them, and Allen has a team good enough to win every time it takes the ice. Players need to step up when given more ice time.
As if the mounting March injuries and callups weren’t enough, yesterday defensive defenseman Kayle Doetzel left the team. I know many of you asked me what was going on. I asked Martinson what happened and he said.
“Doetzel told me he was going home for personal reasons but was not more specific than that. When he told me he was taking all of his stuff with him I made sure he understood once he was suspended he couldn’t return to the team for 45 days. He indicated that was okay and it is clear he will not be back.”
I know many have speculated he might be headed overseas but that is not in the plan from my reporting. Doetzel arrive late playing his first game on New Year’s Eve and has headed home after playing 28 games. Whatever his reasons for leaving I know Allen fans wish him the best of luck going forward and hope everything turns out the best for Kayle.
There is some good news with the roster as there will be two more forwards in the lineup tonight. McAuley will see his first game action since being injured on January 31.
Also seeing his first action and playing in his first professional game will be forward Tim Doherty, a 6-foot, 190-pound, 25-year-old, left-shot forward who played for Penn State this season as a graduate transfer after playing for and getting his undergraduate degree at the University of Maine. Tim grew up in Rhode Island and played for the Boston Junior Bruins before going to college. In 123 collegiate games, Doherty had 95 points (42G, 53A).
Here is a video to help you get to know Doherty. If you have trouble opening it on your device, you can find them on YouTube under the title, “In the Seats With Tim Doherty”:
New to the lineup tonight and getting his first action will be goalie Frank Marotte, who just arrived from Bridgeport (AHL). Frank played in just two games in Bridgeport, both in relief roles, so tonight will be his first pro start.
Rapid City/Allen Rematch
The keys to the game tonight include some things Allen accomplished in the 5-2 loss against Rapid City on Wednesday. The Americans got off to a good start, scoring the first goal and outshooting the Rush 13-8 in the first period and 35-23 for the game. Both of these teams play well with a lead. When leading after the first period, Allen’s record is 12-0-2-0, and Rapid City’s is 10-1-1-0.
Special teams are a big key to the game tonight and were a factor in the Allen loss on Wednesday. The Americans had six power-play opportunities, including over two minutes of 5-on-3, and couldn’t convert. The Allen penalty kill was great (0-4,) so the task for the Americans tonight is to keep up the penalty kill effort and improve the power play. In aggregate, Allen and Rapid City have two of the worst special teams in the ECHL (see below for stats on all teams).
For a good part of this season, Allen was almost unbeatable when scoring the game’s first goal and was ranked at the top of the league. While the Americans still win 79.5% of the points when scoring first with a record of 17-4-1-0, that is not much better than the leaguewide average of 77.1%. With a couple of recent losses when scoring first, including on Wednesday, the Americans have dropped to eighth in the ECHL in points percentage when scoring first. Scoring first is still a big predictor of who will win, so tonight’s first goal will be big. Giving the rookie goalie Marotte an early lead will be important.
I had a couple of questions asking why Spencer Asuchak wasn’t wearing the “C” on his jersey on Wednesday. The short answer is because the Americans were wearing their road red jerseys, and Asuchak’s “C” is on the white jersey, which will be the home jersey until the switch in April. Sometimes when a team has a dark specialty jersey in a series, they wear dark in all games, so the visiting has to bring just one jersey on the trip. That is the case in this series. With co-captain Dyson Stevenson out injured, it seems like a good idea to put the “C” on both Asuchak jerseys.
The referee scheduled tonight is the same as Wednesday, #7 Riley Yerkovich. He called 10 penalties on Wednesday but pretty much let the teams play.
It is time for this odd stat of the day to end. In all six games this season between Allen and Rapid City, the losing team scored two goals. Not sure of the odds that streak can continue, but I predict it comes to an end tonight. haha
Did You Know?
Here is the ECHL Stats post from this morning which looks at special teams performance by adding power play and penalty kill percentages. Allen’s total (97.8%) comes from a #7 ranked power play (17.0%) and #11 ranked penalty kill (80.8%).
If you add power play and penalty kill percentages together, above 105% is considered outstanding and below 100% needs improvement. ECHL teams range from 91.3% to 110.5%. Just two teams are in the outstanding category, and five teams are in the needs improvement group.
Here is the info on all 14 teams:
110.5% – Fort Wayne
106.0% – Florida
101.7% – Kansas City
101.6% – Indy
101.1% – Orlando
100.9% – Utah
100.5% – Wichita
100.2% – Tulsa
100.0% – Jacksonville
99.8% – Rapid City
98.7% – South Carolina
97.8% – Allen
95.0% – Greenville
91.3% – Wheeling